Learning to bake fearlessly <3

Archive for August, 2012

Our first giveaway!


Hi everyone!

This week, I got something very special in the mail. I’ve been obsessed with dollhouse miniature jewelry for a while, but I wanted to wait for something a bit special to come along before I bought anything. Something delicious and well-made. Something absolutely, perfectly me. And man, did I find it!

My very favorite color is this shade of blue, and a lot of my friends associate hearts with me just because I’m so huggy and smiley, and I pepper my online chats with hearts like cupcakes with sugar sprinkles–which I love equally much, with a huge dollop of frosting just like this. And the blue parts are sparkly. Can you believe it? It’s perfect. It arrived promptly and was so perfectly sculpted, it looked edible. So you know what? I thought y’all needed one, too. Unfortunately I can’t ship one out to each and every one of you, so the seller and I decided on a giveaway! One of you will win an item (one necklace, ring, magnet, or pair of earrings of your choice) from her shop. How do you enter? Comment on this post with which one you’d like (be sure to use an email I can reach you at)! The giveaway closes on September 15th, 2012. Good luck!

Some highlights from her shop:

But there’s so much more to see, especially the scrumptious cupcakes, so gogogogogo!

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Cheeseburger in Paradise tastealike fried pickles


My baby brother’s going off to college in Florida next weekend. It’s a little nerve-wracking–my baby brother is all grown up and leaving home! :c But you know we’re gonna be keeping in contact, probably more than he’d like, but I’ll be sure to send him treats, so that should make up for us hovering. ;) We’re doing all his favorite things before he goes, since he won’t be back in town again til Thanksgiving. Like making his favorite meals, and this definitely makes the list.

There used to be a restaurant around here called Cheeseburger in Paradise, where all the burgers were named after Jimmy Buffett songs, where we’d go as a special treat. While the burgers were good, the real treasure was the fried pickles. We’d always get two orders to share. Sadly, a while ago, Cheeseburger in Paradise went the way of the dodo in my town. My dad and brother decided this would not stand, and pretty quickly, through trial and error, they replicated the pickles exactly! Now we have them as a side dish with dinner sometimes.

The reaction I usually get from the unintiated in the ways of fried pickles is “Ewwwwwww!”, but they’re really good, crisp pickles coated in a crunchy fried cornmeal coating. And the horseradish dipping sauce is the perfect complement, creamy and spicy.

For the pickles
1 jar (6-7 pickles) Klaussen kosher dill whole pickles, cut into thin slices
3 cups self-rising cornmeal mix
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
milk, to dip

For the sauce
1 cup creamy horseradish sauce
1 tbsp french dressing

oil for frying

Mix cornmeal mix, salt, and pepper well in a small bowl, fill another small bowl with milk, and top a large plate with a paper towel to drain the fried pickles.

Bring your frying oil to 350 F in a deep pot on the stove. Dip pickle slices in milk, then coat them in cornmeal mix, and finally drop them in the pot to fry. Fry til golden brown, about a minute. Drain on paper-towel-covered plate, then prepare sauce.

Mix horseradish sauce and french dressing in a bowl or ramekin. Dip the pickles in and enjoy! Be sure to eat them on the same day they’re made.

Caramel two ways: sea salt vanilla bean caramels and raspberry caramels


Ribbons of sweetness
This is my second post on caramel, this time candies. Now that I know I can do it, I’m excited, it’s like a new toy. Caramel ALL THE THINGS! These were also partly for my brother, who’s going off to college this month. *sniffle* He’s all grown up! But he knows to expect regular baked treats from his big sis. (Any suggestions for things that ship well?) Anyway, he loves sweet/salty things, so salted caramels were a no-brainer.

As I was boiling the sugar mixture, I had a moment of panic. “Oh no, it smells like it’s burning!” …uh, duh, Shiro love. Haha. I did cook these a bit darker than the sauce, and it worked out well; I wouldn’t have cooked them one second more or less. I also uh, didn’t have a candy thermometer for the first batch, just a meat thermometer that only goes up to 220. So I winged it (wung it? wang it? how do I words) and cooked it to there, and then about a minute more. The caramels turned out marvelously chewy and flavorful.

You’ll notice I specified a combination of salted (2 tbsp) and unsalted (3tbps) butter on the salted caramel recipe. I used that because that’s what I had on hand, and it turned out really yummy. But I’m sure all unsalted butter would taste just as good.

You’ll want to really line and butter the pan well; I didn’t and paid for it. Also, though it’s tedious, it’s important to wrap these. Otherwise they’ll all stick together and you’ll end up with a mass of caramel instead of neat individual candies.

Once I had cut my teeth on the fairly standard salted caramels, I wanted more. What I really wanted to make was raspberry caramels. But, googling around, there was no recipe for it! So I adjusted the recipe slightly to allow for fresh raspberry puree instead of vanilla extract. And it was soooooooooooooo good, deep caramel with fresh raspberry flavor permeating. It was perfect. I’m so proud!

I’d never worked with vanilla beans before this. It’s wild to see how many seeds they have! What do they do with them all?
Vanilla seed fingers!

Sea salted vanilla bean caramels
From Confessions of a Foodie Bride

1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp salted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

To start with, line a 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter it lightly.

In a smallish saucepan, combine cream, butter, vanilla extract, seeds, and pod, and sea salt. Heat on the stove over medium high heat til just boiling, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

In a larger, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir together, then heat on the stove on medium high, whisking often, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then keep heating, but do not stir. Swirl the pot gently instead, frequently, until the sugar mixture is a nice golden color.

Remove the vanilla pods from the cream mixture and pour into the sugar mixture. Careful! The mixture will bubble up. Keep heating, whisking frequently, until the mixture is 248 F. Then take it off the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Let it set for half and hour, then sprinkle with sea salt. Allow it to cool completely, then cut into small squares with a buttered knife or pizza cutter and wrap in waxed paper. Enjoy!

Raspberry caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tbsp fresh raspberry puree, strained and seedless
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

To start with, line a 8 inch by 8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter it lightly.

In a smallish saucepan, combine cream, butter, raspberry puree, vanilla seeds and pod, and sea salt. Heat on the stove over medium high heat til just boiling, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

I love the slight pinkness.

In a larger, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir together, then heat on the stove on medium high, whisking often, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then keep heating, but do not stir. Swirl the pot gently instead, frequently, until the sugar mixture is a nice golden color.

Remove the vanilla pods from the cream mixture and pour into the sugar mixture. Careful! The mixture will bubble up. Keep heating, whisking frequently, until the mixture is 248 F. Then take it off the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Allow it to cool completely, then cut into small squares with a buttered knife or pizza cutter and wrap in waxed paper. Enjoy!

Honey liqueur spiked caramel sauce


One of my big cooking fears was caramel. How much do you cook it? What if it scorches? What if it crystallizes, or never thickens up in the first place? What if it tastes terrible?

Nevertheless, I got a craving the other day for spiked caramel sauce over vanilla ice cream–which oddly is something I’d never had before–so I decided to be brave. Learn to bake fearlessly, right?I googled up a recipe, went out for some heavy cream, and–caramel! It was nowhere near as hard as I thought it’d be, once I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I actually thought it was a shade light, but it was still really good, at least as good as the bottled caramel sauce from the store. I had some over vanilla bean ice cream with my friend Beth, and it was good.

The recipe uses Barenjager, a honey liqueur that has good associations for me. For as long as I can remember, there’s been a bottle shaped like a cute beehive sitting with the liquor at my parents’ New Years Eve parties, which were always a ton of fun. And it goes great with the smooth caramel! But I bet any booze you choose would go just as well.

Honey liqueur spiked caramel sauce
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 ounces Barenjager honey liqueur
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
From Rachel Cooks

Combine butter, cream, vanilla, Barenjager, and salt in a small saucepan. Stick it on the stove over medium high heat until just boiling, stirring once in a while. Watch it carefully! It should be a nice yellow color from the butter.

Set that aside off the heat, and then combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a different saucepan. Stir til combined, then heat on the stove over medium high heat, this time without stirring. Watch it til it turns a nice gold (see picture).

When it’s the right color, take it off the heat and slowly pour the cream mixture in, whisking constantly. It will bubble up, so be prepared. Store in a heatproof container til thickened. Serve over vanilla bean ice cream, on apples, or however you like! Refrigerate when not eating.